World In Flames Deluxe

Way back in issue 2 World In Flames was compared favourably to TSR's ETO. Having totally forgotten what was written I dug out the article and discovered that the gameplay is basically the same as in the old 5th edition. The new more colourful game has been moving along slowly in the attic all summer with Planes and Ships options thrown in for good luck. 2 games were played. 1 using only the Europe map averaged 1 hour bi-monthly turns. The full war took a good 1 1/2 hours for 2 months.

 

This is supposed to be the final version but I am not too sure. The box includes some updates to the set up and notes the backs of some counters are wrong. I applied for the counter fixes and 5 months later received a postcard implying that they would show up in January. I downloaded the July rules amendments. With 2 columns to a page and a 10 point font this lot came to 22 pages. I tried cutting these out and gluing them onto the parts of text that they replace but this was too fiddly. The changes are pretty minor and not worth the trouble updating them. Playing this sort of game with someone who insists on all the minor rules ideas would be indescribable. All the following comments are based on the rules as printed not updated.

 

The attraction of World in Flames is that is 1 of very few games that allow the whole war to be treated in global terms. Axis and Allies offers a simple representation but only from 1942, a good deal of homework or the Xeno expansions are required to start from 1939, the only other game that springs to mind on this subject is the old SPI item Global War. Other start dates are available but by starting World in 1939 there are a lot of options opened up in the Pacific. Japan has s good chance to work on China but other nations may build up forces to make taking some important islands a lot more difficult when the time comes. USA entry is based on random chit entry influenced by how aggressive the Axis are, the USA is very limited in what it can build or do while neutral but still has some effect on the game. By representing the whole globe Britain's options are considerably widened compared to a game in Europe alone. The resources in Asia and Canada need to be shipped to factories and shipping lanes protected. If large numbers of ships are used to keep the Italian navy bottled in the Med and help the USA in the East then the Germans may be able to take on the Home fleet. On the other hand huge numbers of ships can be based around Britain while giving India limited protection if Japan goes that way. A nation can only be completely conquered by controlling the capitals of all its territories and by occupying every printed factory hex. This gives the Axis the option of taking Paris and declaring a neutral Vichy France (easy) or taking out all of mainland France and making the conquest of Spain achievable. If Vichy is not created a rump French state can hold on in the South or in Brittany by occupying a single factory and linking the front to the sea or neutral Spain. In time this can be taken but Germany may have to wait another year to take on Russia. With no Vichy all the French territories stay in the game as well as the French fleet which could sail around the Med or go to Indo-China.

 

The new edition integrates the various modules that came out for the 5th, some are now optional rules in the correct places in the rules book but others have been removed. The new maps cover most of the Asia Aflame map area making it largely redundant, the deluxe box only provides a Scandinavia sub-map. Many counters are now redundant including the Mech units from Mech in Flames and the Russia entry chits, others can be used with certain options but are not going to be punched often. Considering the 2 major modules, Planes has some good ideas but does add too many planes, Ships is too much trouble in the full game. The concept of Planes is to have pilots that have to be built as well as planes although when a plane is shot down the pilot will usually survive so more planes are required than pilots. The later planes are so much better than the early models that it is possible to retire old planes and put their pilots into new planes. Airial combat has been changed to use 2D10 and continues until all bombers are cleared through or all planes destroyed on 1 side, most results are aborted planes returning to base with no effect. The system starts to break down with large numbers of planes, this will not often happen on land as planes can only be used once per turn and it is sensible to hold them back, making 2 or 3 planes on each side a big affair. At sea it is possible to have very big carrier battles if Ships are used where every carrier has 1 counter and each has its own plane. This could result in big decisive naval battles where every available plane goes up plus any land based planes that can reach, 15 or 20 planes a side are possible. Just as for small air combats both sides throw 2D10 with the result affecting 1 plane each which could be on either side. The best fighter is going to take damage 1st giving a gradual bonus to the wining side, giving up and aborting is realistic on land but unthinkable at sea where a single cleared bomber may be of use but the more cleared through the better. A lot of dice rolls result with a winner being clear after a few rolls but both sides going to the end to limit or maximise the damage.

 

The big effect of Ships is to more then double the number of ship counters, most of the old ship counters are not used. 2 new ship counters replace 1 old although some counters that represent groups of very small ships are still kept. Ships are now quicker to build and obviously greater in number, the same sized naval battle will be less decisive with Ships because there are more (hopefully expendable) units to soak up losses. The surface naval system is good and smooth, as in the old 5th both sides roll for surprise based on the sea box that they are in yet if 1 succeeds he adds the roll of the other player to his search box to get a number of surprise points. These points can be used to avoid combat or to increase the punch of 1 fleet, decrease that of the opponent or some combination. D10s are now used for all rolls so the chance of finding a fleet is reduced and that of 1 side surprising the other increased. Convoys are used to transport resources to factories and not surprisingly make finding their supporting ships much easier. Unfortunately air-sea combat is a nightmare, both sides put up planes and fight it out with the air rules, cleared through bombers, possibly from both sides, are attacked by ship AAA which can destroy planes and decrease their bombing effect. Next the surviving bombing strength is checked for ship damage, which can be pretty severe if enough get through. In all forms of naval combat the result is a number of ships destroyed, damaged or aborted, a ship is picked for each result and if the D10 is under its defence factor then the result is applied if not the next less severe result goes. Naval combat is the longest of combat methods compared to land and air. Damaged ships come back in 2 turns (if production costs are played) a nation can make up for a naval defeat in 6 months or so having sailed new and repaired ships back to the main fleet. In comparison European Russia can be overrun in 6 summer months if there is sufficient superiority of units.

 

The game takes up far too much time although there are a good number of tactical decisions to be made in every turn, all of which keep up the interest. The strategic options are more limited due to the layout of the globe and the difficulty of transferring large forces from 1 front to another or even of declaring war against major neutral powers. With a lot of time being spent on each game there is a degree of experience gaming together with some concept of winning. To win either side has to control all of a set list of hexes, which indicate control of pretty much the whole world. These include Moscow, London and Cape Town making an Axis instant win hard work, thankfully none of these objectives are in America. To take London the British Home fleet has to be destroyed which is most unlikely unless the Axis have taken Gibraltar, mopped up all Allied fleets in the Med and joined all their ships. The other option is to sneak past the British fleet at the beginning of a turn and take London that same turn. This is only going to happen if The British have lost most of their forces defending France, France will fall anyway so anything above the most limited effort to help her out seems a waste of effort. If neither side gains an instant win, a larger list of objective hexes are consulted, the number of hexes controlled by ether side are compared at the end of August '45.

 

Winning at the time limit is not a case of owning the most objectives but of gaining more objectives than each side historically held at that time. These historical attainments are listed but it is suggested that players bid some number of objectives for each side with the highest bidder gaining that nation but having to attain some greater result than historically. It makes more sense to pick sides and stick with the historical objective levels. Whatever the method used the victory choice is of an all out win during the game or of bettering history at the end of the war. This is rather a let down in that the instant victory is hard to achieve and the objective count may rank the nations in order of doing well but does not show the final result of the alternative World War that has been fought. Consider the full game that took most of this Summer, the Axis started off slowly, were late in taking France then marched into Spain while Japan cleared up China while the USA was neutral. Russia was not invaded until 1942 and things looked bad with a 2nd front opening in France in 1943. At this stage an Axis win seemed unlikely and the game could have been called off as an Allied win but Moscow fell in 1944 while the Japanese moved towards India. By early 1945 it was clear that the only instant objective hex that was out of Axis reach was London. The others had fallen or could be taken in time, with Russia out of the war Germans were pouring back into France and yet another USA fleet had been sunk in the Pacific. The point here is not what happened but at what point in the game did 1 side gain a clear win? Of interest but of less relevance to the game is at what point this alternative war would have stopped and what would the layout of the New World look like? If the game is seen as part experience or simulation this omission is a let down. An example of what you do not get is the various victory levels in Command games that explain how the victory would have changed the world (or not if you look at the XTR Bulge victory conditions).

 

This victory problem is due to the game's design make up, I find it a failing but others may prefer gaming to win rather than gaming to simulate. Unit building shows another example of relying on the designer’s view of events. All nations start with a few units and build more based on the number of factories and resources they control. Resources can be used by any nation that controls them but most factories can only be used by the original owner although that owner will lose their use if they are taken over. Naturally as 1 nation expands it gains in ability to produce new units but not as much as its opponent loses production. The winner is gaining resources and some factories but the loser is losing the same resources and more factories. The build points gains are spent on units from force pools, which are increased by adding new units at the beginning of every year. In the latter part of years some unit types, usually land units may run out and these can be built from the next year's pool but at a higher cost. The choice of units to enter these pools is loosely based on the historical production of each nations, planes and ships get better but the number of land units for nations other than the USA peak around 1943. France and Italy are assumed to be knocked out before 1945 and both suffer from very small or no additions to their force pools in later years. France has little hope but Italy could be knocked out early or in control of vast chunks of Europe, given up by Germany to allow Italy to build up its navy, the force pools only allow limited building of units that never made it. Germany can build aircraft carriers but if it controls all of Russia, half France and Spain it will have a production to match or exceed the USA but only a limited number of units to build. The game has a way out in offensive chits that can be built to increase combat ability. These are a better buy for very wealthy nations than endless planes that cannot be used because there are already far more planes that can be deployed where they are needed. A Germany or Japan in this sort of situation could well be in a winning situation but as explained the game might not allow a victory at that point.

 

Having already dealt with the basic systems back in issue 2 it is not necessary to go through them all again. Although much has changed the basic design idea and feel of the game is the same. The major gaming difference is the use of D10 rather than D6 which makes just about everything have a slight chance of going horribly wrong. If 1 lesson has to be passed on it is not to attack on land at 2:1 or less unless there are at least 2 uncommitted units in reserve to make up for bad results, to really ensure success 4:1 is required. As a postscript De-Luxe World in Flames is pretty expensive, in retrospect most of the extra bits add too much to the playing time. The Classic set includes all the optional rules but not the counters to use them at a cost similar to Axis and Allied and less than the Xeno World at War plus Russia expansion. I would have to say that as long as the game gets played at least once it is a pretty good buy and worth trading up from 5th only the victory system, designed for gaming not re-creation lets the package down.